In the United States, every crime falls into one of two categories: misdemeanor or felony. Because many people are unaware of the differences between these two categories, they often mistakenly use these terms interchangeably. In reality, the nature of a specific crime determines whether or not it will be classified as a misdemeanor or as a felony offense.


In the state of New Jersey, misdemeanor crimes are referred to as “Disorderly Person” offenses. Common misdemeanors include non-violent resistance of arrest, and public intoxication. The punishment for those convicted of a misdemeanor includes fines and up to a year of jail time. To further distinguish the severity of misdemeanor offenses, these crimes are labeled as either first-degree or second-degree offenses. While first-degree misdemeanors carry a punishment of up to a year in jail, second-degree misdemeanors typically don’t result in jail time for more than 60 days. However, individuals who have prior convictions can have a second-degree misdemeanor turned into a first-degree offense.


The New Jersey criminal justice system refers to felony charges as “crimes.” Unlike misdemeanors, felonies are offenses of an incredibly serious or violent nature. Murder, rape, and drug trafficking are all classified as felonies. Financially motivated white-collar crimes such as fraud or embezzlement are also felonies. The severity of felony charges is distinguished by one of four levels in degree. A fourth-degree felony is the least serious kind of crime in this category and carries the least amount of potential jail time. First-degree felonies include homicide charges and can result in a lifetime prison sentence. In late 2007, New Jersey lawmakers signed a bill officially banning the use of the death penalty as punishment for those convicted of first-degree murder.

With extensive experience working as the state’s deputy attorney general and as a New Jersey public defender, Walter K. Schreyer offers superior representation for those accused of a criminal offense. You can contact The Law Firm of Walter K. Schreyer at (888) 511-2837. Our website also provides information about our criminal defense services.


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